Government defends 'sensible' disability benefits changes

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The government has seen off a challenge to its changes to benefits received by disabled people.

In a debate on 13 February 2013, Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud said the introduction of Personal Independent Payments (PIPs) represented a "sensible reform developed in close collaboration with disabled people".

He was responding to a motion to regret put forward by Labour's Lord McKenzie of Luton, stating people will be worse off under PIP compared to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and that the impact on carers has not been properly assessed.

From April 2013 the government is introducing a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for eligible working-age people aged 16 to 64.

Lord McKenzie of Luton argued the measures had "failed to gain full support among disabled people" and that the reform's "starting point was not how best to meet disabled people's needs but a crude attempt to reduce the benefits bill".

Lib Dem Baroness Thomas of Winchester spoke about her own experience of using a Motability car and expressed her fear that "those who do utmost to help themselves may find their determination counts against them".

A separate point was raised by Conservative Baroness Browning, who said she was "seriously concerned" that the government had not assessed savings in the cost of benefits arising from the increasing integration of "those who would not previously have been able to live independent lives".

Paralympian and crossbencher Baroness Grey-Thompson hit out at the media's portrayal of disabled people as "a homogeneous group of unknowns living the life on benefits".

But Lord Freud maintained that: "DLA is simply not working in its current form... The government's reforms represent a chance to start afresh."

He added that the government had listened and modified its proposals in areas such as the timetable for phasing in PIP assessments and the definition of those receiving benefits at a higher rate due to limited mobility.

Lord McKenzie withdrew his motion to regret and the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 were approved.

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